Stretching your quads for Rowing

There is no doubt that the most dominant muscles used for power through the rowing drive is the quadricep group, located on the front of the thigh.

When young rowers are growing, this muscle can get tight from use but also loses relative length as the long bones grow and the corresponding muscles take time to adapt.

As the name suggests, the quadriceps muscle group is made up of four muscles. One extends over the front of the hip joint and down to the knee cap (the longest muscle). The other 3 extend from further down the thigh bone into the knee cap (the short muscles).

The muscle running over the hip does not need to be flexible to row as it is relaxed over the hip and stretched over the knee at the catch. However, the other three muscles that extend from the thigh to the knee are on full stretch when the rower is compacted with a vertical shin position at the catch.

Rowers need to stretch these shorter muscles with the knee in front of the hip. A traditional quad stretch with the knee under the hip stretches the longer muscle and is less relevant for rowing.

We recommend the following stretches for the adolescent (& every) rower:

If you get knee pain in the seated stretch you should only do the standing stretch.

How can ankle flexibility increase a rowers risk of low back pain?

The foot stretcher angle or ‘rake’ is over 30 degrees in the rowing boat – this means that a rower needs a free and easy range of ankle dorsi-flexion to be able to get to the catch with a vertical shin position.

A lack of ankle dorsi-flexion (knee over toe) motion will result in the knee not being able to progress to be above the ankle.  The rower then needs to create stroke length by ‘over-reaching’ from the hips and low back, this often result in the low back having to move into a curved position and it is this flexed position that has been linked to an increased incidence of low back pain.

One strategy that rowers with a lack of dorsi-flexion use is to flatten our the foot plate or reduce the ‘rake’.  This can allow the knee to progress over the ankle and reduce the risk of over-reaching from the spine BUT this foot plate position is not as ideal for generating backwards force.  A flattened foot plate results in a backwards force that has a more upwards component and this is detrimental to performance and boat speed.

A lack of ankle dorsi-flexion can be a result of the ankle joint structure (unchangeable) or a lack of short calf muscle / soleus muscle length.  The length of the soleus muscle can be improve with long hold stretching.  perform the stretch below for 2 minutes once per day for 2 weeks.  This usually results in an improvement that can allow the rower to increase the ‘rake’.

 

Rowing Injury Sports Medicine Masterclasses – Adelaide September 16th

Kellie Wilkie & Dr Lari Trease, Rowing Australia Rio Olympic Lead Physiotherapist and Doctor, invite Physiotherapists, Sports Physicians and Sports Doctors involved or interested in club, school and elite rowing medicine to an education day with a practical and performance focus.

SASI – South Australian Sports Institute, 08:30 – 15:30, Sunday Sept 16th 2018

Topics covered in this comprehensive Rowing Sports Medicine Masterclass series include:

  • an introduction to rowing
  • common rowing injuries – chest wall pain, low back pain, wrist and forearm injuries, knee and buttock pain in the rower – identification, investigation, management or treatment and prevention
  • load management and monitoring for club and school rowers
  • return to rowing protocols
  • musculoskeletal screening
  • warm up, stretching and trunk control for developing rowers
  • treatment masterclass
  • how to become involved in club, school and elite rowing as a Sports Medicine provider

Comprehensive resources are provided to participants on USB and include:

  • all lecture slides and notes in PDF
  • return to rowing protocols
  • load management and monitoring spreadsheets
  • screening templates and recording tools
  • literature resource list

Registration is via BODYSYSTEM Physiotherapy on 03 6231 5991 or registration form and further details available vis this link: Prac Edu Day 2018

GRowingBODIES Coach injury prevention professional development – September

The GRowingBODIES Coach Professional Development day is designed to empower coaches in their ability to prevent injuries in their athletes formative years.

The full day course, in Adelaide, on September 15th 2018 will cover:

  • how coaches can assist to prevent low back injuries and other common injuries in young developing bodies
  • how to manage the developing rowers load between doing too much or too little and the injury risks associated with either extreme
  • how strength and conditioning can be protective of injury for young GRowingBODIES and exactly what programs are best
  • what low back pain to be worried about
  • how to manage a rower back into training after injury

Extensive electronic resources will be provided to all attending Coaches:

  • individual stretches with photos and instructions to use as with you own school or club branding on posters, handouts or any other format [shown above]
  • warm up exercises as photos and instructions to formulate your own active warm up routines
  • trunk movement control and strength exercises with photos and instructions to formulate your own exercise programs
  • strength and conditioning exercises and instructions to formulate your own gym programs

These tips, resources and the knowledge will empower rowing coaches to be able give their athletes the best start in their rowing career. Athlete future lumbar spine health rests with school and club Coaches – back health should be high on every Coaches agenda and be included in their considerations for duty of care in club and school programs

Spaces are limited in this small group environment.  Further information, including booking details are available on this link: Coach PD Day 2018.

Hamstring length is important in rowing… but only if you use it!!!!

Physiotherapists screen rowers with the intent of preventing injury BUT it is VERY important to recognise that what is seen in the clinic is not always what is seen when rowing a boat.

Having long hamstrings allows the rower to reach the end of the drive without the pelvis moving back too far and the low back moving into a more flexed (slumped) position. Less low back flexion in the rowing stroke has been linked to less likelihood of low back pain. It is an easy assumption to make that having long hamstrings will ensure that you do not get low back pain. However, the rower with long hamstrings may still move in a way in the boat that results in a ‘slump’ at the finish due to other reasons, this may include; a lack of abdominal strength and endurance or simply using a movement pattern that is ingrained and difficult to change.

You may ask ‘then why screen for hamstring length?’ This is a VERY good question.

It is important to screen for hamstring length as a rower will not be able to use optimal movement patterns in the boat without it. However, it is equally important to educate the rower about why it is important to change length using visual examples so they know what they are aspiring to.

It is equally important to ensure a individual rowers coach is aware of when the rower has adequate hamstring length so that a rower can be coached to use it and make a movement change that will sustain the length change.

Screening is not enough – education about how to protect your young growing body from injury and how to optimise movement patterns for improved performance are imperative.

Connecting the body to the legs

Getting into a compressed position at the catch requires flexibility of the ankles, knees and hips whilst being able to maintain a flat low back, a curved upper back position and an ability to ‘hang’ with the large lat (latissimus dorsi) muscles about to take load.

As the oar enters the water the knees start to descend and the body starts to open up. When young, developing rowers learn to row they are taught to press the knees down first then open the body up. Rowing is technically very difficult and this is a great way to learn technique. However, as the rower develops, technique can be progressed to adding body opening as the legs are pressed down. This spreads the load across the pelvis and low back in a more even way and makes the rowing stroke more powerful and efficient.

Opening the body while the legs are descending is a very difficult action for the large gluteal muscles. They have to engage when they are on full stretch and have to work through approximately 130 degrees of hip flexion shortly after the catch to approximately 70 degrees of hip flexion at the finish position. They need to brace against the large forces coming from the quads to transfer load through to a stable trunk and arms that eventually impart pressure in the oar.

This featured exercise is a muscle patterning exercise that rowers can use to practice the sequencing of leg to body connection. Rowers need to have enough ankle, knee and hip range  to get into the crouched sitting position that is similar to the position at the catch. Once in this position;

  • bend forward over the legs and cup the elbows
  • cupping the elbows ensures that the shoulder blades come out around the upper back a little as they do at the catch
  • keep the low back flat and the upper back relaxed
  • push through the heels and keep the elbows pointed towards the ground, lifting the elbows can allow you to raise by stabilizing your spine with your hip flexors and pushing through your quads
  • this exercise teaches you to push through your glutes and quads while keeping your trunk muscles on
  • raise up by pushing your knees back and opening your body slightly, keep looking toward the ground and do not stand all the way up – after all, you do not lie flat in the boat!!

3 lots of 20 repetition was performed with control is an ideal amount to aim for.

You can also do this as an active movement exercise as part of your warm up – do sets of 10.

 

Kellie Wilkie on ABC radio discussing training load for GRowingBODIES

Kellie Wilkie was recently interviewed on ABC Hobart radio about aspiring to be elite in sport, what amount of sport kids should do and injury prevention for developing athletes.  

Kellie starts her segment at 1:02:30 ABC Radio Hobart

Aspiring to be an elite athlete is common in active adolescents.  This is a great aim as it encourages physical activity, relationship building amongst peers and results in kids having great adult mentors.  Eventually though, kids become adults and have to make an assessment about life goals including whether they peruse their sporting dreams or change their goals to focus more on occupational endeavours.  Whatever the choice, aspiring to be the best form of yourself that you can be teaches you lessons along the way that contribute to you being an achiever in life.

In the pursuit of excellence, kids can often do too much sport or specialise in one sport too early in life.  Research reported in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015, found that kids have an increased injury risk if their organised sport hours per week were greater than their age in years.  They also found that if their organised time in sport was twice as much as their unstructured activity time, such as walking to school and jumping on the trampoline, they were also at greater risk.  Parents need to ensure their children are not doing too much but also that they are doing enough unorganised activity so that they are not missing valuable time to experiment with movement and do incidental exercise.

Sports Physiotherapists and Sport & Exercise Physicians are ideal practitioners to consult with if parents want evidence based advice on how much sport is too much, what is the right mix of activity and if their children are meeting minimal physical activity levels.  Sport specific screenings with a Sports Physiotherapist can identify whether a young, growing body has enough flexibility, movement control and strength to participated in their main chosen sport as they start to specialise.  These assessments can assist with injury prevention and performance optimisation, especially if compelted throughout the growing years or just prior to puberty.


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